A complete guide: DOT physical exam
  • Jun 22, 2023

DOT physical exam

What is a DOT physical exam?

Long hours on the road may be physically and emotionally taxing, which is why it’s critical to identify physical and mental health problems in commercial drivers early on. This is an issue of public safety. That is why federal law requires commercial motor vehicle drivers to undergo routine physical examinations. These examinations are referred to as DOT Physicals – Department of Transportation Medical Examinations. These examinations are strictly controlled and were implemented to ensure the safety of drivers. DOT medical examiners are specially educated to comprehend the rules and assist drivers in obtaining the necessary qualifications.

What is included in a DOT Physical Exam?

A DOT physical is required to verify that you are physically fit for duty. When the examiner decides that you are physically provided to drive, they will give you a DOT medical card or certificate. However, before its issuance, there are a few criteria that must be met. Here’s what to anticipate during your DOT physical, so you can feel at ease and remain as calm as possible throughout the examination.

  1. Vision test: The critical nature of a driver’s vision is self-evident. You need not be concerned if you do not have 20/20 eyesight. The exam is designed to accommodate the usage of corrective lenses, glasses, or contacts. As long as they do not impair your vision, you may still pass this criterion. Apart from visual acuity, the exam measures your field of vision as well. Your sense of sight should have a temporal range of at least 70 degrees. Finally, you should be able to identify and differentiate between colors. This criterion is to verify that you are capable of correctly and rapidly reading signs and signals. Additionally, bring paperwork from your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you have visual problems.
  2. Hearing test: Another critical need is that you have a good sense of hearing. The examiner will perform a forced whisper test on you. They do it by whispering phrases or numbers into your ear from about five feet away. Individuals who use hearing aids may utilize them throughout this portion of the physical examination. Applicants who do not pass the whisper test will be subjected to an audiometer examination.
  3. Blood pressure: Blood pressure will also be carefully checked to rule out hypertension and other complications, as well as your heart rate for abnormalities.
  4. Urinalysis: When you hear the term “urine testing,” you may immediately think of drug tests. That is not the case with the DOT physical examination. The urinalysis performed during your DOT test checks your blood sugar and protein levels to identify whether you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or have any kidney problems, such as an infection.
  5. Physical exam: The Medical Examiner (ME) will provide a battery of tests to assess coordination, reflexes, and balance. They will examine any potential mobility restrictions, such as anomalies in bodily components or functions. If any abnormal results are discovered, the ME will discuss them with you before determining whether they impair your ability to drive safely.

What Should You Bring to Your DOT Physical Examination?

Every Driver:

Bring a copy of your driver’s license with you.

Bring a comprehensive list of medicines with you.

Bring a full bladder with you.

Drivers Who Require Contact Lenses, Glasses, or Hearing Aids:

Bring your prescription glasses, contacts, or hearing aids with you.

What are the criteria of the DOT for physical blood pressure?

  • A motorist with a systolic blood pressure of less than 140 and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 90 may be medically authorized to drive for a two-year term.
  • A motorist with a systolic blood pressure of 140–159 and diastolic blood pressure of 90–99 has stage 1 hypertension and may be medically certified to drive for a one-year term. Following that, certification exams should be conducted yearly and should result in a ratio of 140/90 or below.
  • A motorist with a systolic blood pressure of 160-179 or diastolic blood pressure of 100-109 has stage 2 hypertension and is a candidate for antihypertensive medication treatment. The motorist is issued a three-month certification to get their blood pressure down to less than or equal 140/90. If the driver tolerates the therapy well and maintains a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or below, they may be recertified for one year from the first test date. Following that, the driver is certified yearly.
  • A motorist with a blood pressure reading of 180 systolic or 110 diastolic is classified as having stage 3 hypertension and is disqualified.

How to prepare for a DOT physical exam

It is critical to avoid large meals and caffeine before beginning your DOT physical. This is because increased food intake and caffeine consumption may result in a false positive for hypertension or other illnesses that impair your test.

Caffeine, for example, may temporarily elevate blood pressure, which may result in a slight rise during your test. Avoid that additional cup of coffee in the morning before the test. Additionally, high cholesterol, high-sugar, and high-fat meals may produce false positives for other chronic illnesses. Take the time before your test to have a light meal low in fat, sugar, and caffeine. Additionally, meals rich in salt and sodium may temporarily increase blood pressure.

Like the regular intake of harmful foods, stress may lead to high blood pressure and other chronic diseases. Take some time to unwind and de-stress before your DOT physical. When feasible, use a personal day to choose the optimum time for you to finish the test—no attempt to squeeze it in with your other obligations. If you need an examination immediately, consider seeing a medical provider that offers walk-in clinic access.

Additionally, obtaining eight or more hours of sleep, deep breathing, meditation, and other mindfulness-based activities may help you relax.

Possible results of a DOT physical exam

There are usually three potential outcomes for individuals awaiting their DOT physicals.

Pass: Applicants who pass the health screening with flying colors will get a regular two-year medical card. There is nothing more they need to do in this scenario until their contract expires 24 months later.

Short-term pass: Suppose the driver has a problem that does not automatically prohibit him (or her) from driving a commercial vehicle. In that case, they may be eligible for a short-term medical card (DOT physical card), as mentioned before.

Fail: Unfortunately for individuals with severe issues will be outright failure.